PETA calls for Santa Bill Lee's animal license to be non-renewed following reindeer escape
Update: PETA is still making problems for mall Santa and former Westword cover boy Bill Lee.
One of Lee's reindeer.
Five days after calling him out for an incident in which his reindeer escaped from a Santa appearance in Dillon and had to be tracked down the next morning (get the details below), the animal rights organization is requesting that the USDA decline to renew Lee's license to exhibit animals. The Idaho Springs rancher's license is set to expire on December 20 and PETA thinks that given his record, it should expire for good.
In a letter to the USDA, PETA notes that between February 2011 and November 2013, USDA officials inspected Lee's facility, called the Laughing Valley Ranch, 26 times and found it in violation of the Animal Welfare Act on twenty of those inspections. It also points out that Lee was recently convicted for animal cruelty. Lee makes his living playing Santa and other characters, and exhibiting animals.
His animal-cruelty-charges saga, which we recounted in our 2012 cover story, "Santa is Grounded," is much more complicated than PETA lets on. But basically, a complaint about some of his donkeys set off a chain of events that led to more than one hundred of his animals being seized by Clear Creek County animal control officers and Lee being slapped with a total of 32 charges of animal cruelty. This past March, he agreed to plead guilty to one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty in exchange for a two-year deferred judgement. In addition, the county agreed to return more than thirty of Lee's animals and pay him $15,000 for those it was unable to get back.
See PETA's letter to the USDA below, and continue reading for details on the incident in which Lee's reindeer escaped from him while he was playing Santa in Dillon.
Continue to read our original post about the reindeer escape.